Daniel Hillel, professor emeritus of Plant and Soil Sciences, received the 2012 World Food Prize from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Oct. 18 at the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium on food security in Des Moines, Iowa.
Hillel, an Israeli scientist who pioneered a radically innovative way of bringing water to crops in arid and dry-land regions, was presented with a $250,000 award.
“We draw hope from contributions like those of this year’s honoree,” said the secretary-general. “Imagine trying to coax crops out of the dry ground of the Middle East.” Hillel, he said, “stared at hard circumstances. Instead of waiting for a rainstorm, he had a brainstorm.”
Hillel’s water management concepts promoted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization have spread principles, designing practical applications and achieving wide outreach to farmers, communities, researchers and agricultural policymakers in more than 30 countries.
During the 90-minute live television broadcast, Hillel’s scientific achievements were noted as well as his dedication to working with people across borders to help improve food security for all. Hillel’s nomination for the World Food Prize contained letters of support from individuals and organizations in Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Hillel retired from the faculty in 1993. Recently, he has been working on adaptation of agriculture to climate change in association with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The World Food Prize was founded in 1986 by Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, the World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. Laureates have been recognized from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the United States.